Lufthansa Group has signed an agreement with Air Berlin to acquire parts of the insolvent Oneworld carrier’s operations.
Air Berlin says Lufthansa will take over Austrian leisure subsidiary Niki, regional unit LGW and an additional 20 aircraft for a total of €210 million ($ 249 million). But the combined purchase price “will be subject to adjustments”, Air Berlin notes.
It says that talks with EasyJet still continue regarding acquisition of other Air Berlin operations. A period of exclusivity applying to talks with EasyJet and Lufthansa expired today.
The deal with Lufthansa “guarantees” preservation of “all jobs” at Niki and LGW, says Air Berlin. It adds that the agreement “additionally opens perspectives for several thousand employees”.
German broadcaster ARD showed news footage today of Lufthansa Group chief executive Carsten Spohr saying the deal provides a “secure perspective” for 3,000 Air Berlin employees. He says the acquisition represents “a big step” for Lufthansa’s low-cost division Eurowings and an “important decision” for Germany as an aviation location. “We have to ensure that in Europe too, there are powerful, strong players,” Spohr says.
Following the agreement with Lufthansa, Air Berlin believes there is a “good chance” that a €150 million bridging loan – which Germany backed when Air Berlin filed for insolvency in August – can be repaid.
Air Berlin’s general representative Frank Kebekus states: “Now it is about negotiating contracts with the other bidders too.” In addition to EasyJet, Air Berlin says it is in talks with interested parties regarding the German carrier’s maintenance division.
The deal with Lufthansa awaits approval by Air Berlin’s creditors and administrator and by the European Commission.
Air Berlin previously disclosed a plan to terminate operations under its own brand by 28 October. Flights involving Niki, LGW and Air Berlin aircraft wet-leased to Lufthansa Group carriers Eurowings and Austrian Airlines are set to continue.
Despite the agreement with Lufthansa, pilot union Vereinigung Cockpit says “far too few details are known” about the future of Air Berlin pilots. The union argues: “It cannot be that pilots, after the acquisition, have to reapply for their own jobs and additionally accept salary cuts up to 40% – as Lufthansa currently demands from pilots.”
Service sector union Verdi says Lufthansa’s job guarantees for staff at Niki and LGW cover around 1,450 positions in total.
At the end of 2016, Air Berlin had nearly 8,500 employees across the business.